Monday, September 21, 2009

Handy new device

I recently acquired a portable audio recorder, the ZOOM H4n Handy Recorder. It's a little bit bigger than a cigarette pack and sports a built-in pair of microphones, two universal inputs that take either XLR or 1/4 plugs so you can add external mics or take the line out of a mixer, and records to SD or SDHC cards. It has a USB 2.0 connection so you can transfer recordings to a computer, or even use it as a digital audio interface if you want to use it to record straight to a computer.

A couple of months ago at band rehearsal the keyboard player brought a CD recorder and spent many long minutes trying to set up a pair of mics running through the PA system to record the session. It worked OK but required a fair bit of effort. We were hoping to get a decent demo out of the experience. It was not fruitful, and it was painful enough that we didn't try again.

I brought a laptop to a duet gig in July and set it up to record off a stereo out from the PA, and that was fairly easy and gave good results, but was a bit cumbersome to set up. Enough so that I would think twice about doing it again.

With something like the H4n, though, the hassle factor is reduced so much that it's almost a no-brainer to drag it along anywhere. Just stick it in the guitar case or in the bag with the cables and bring a spare mic stand or a tripod to hold it (and a pair of spare AA batteries if you can't count on an AC outlet you can use)... set it up in a reasonable spot, make sure the levels are OK, and hit RECORD. It's dead easy to capture any rehearsal or performance, and the results are about as good as you could hope for.

The only downside is, when I get home from rehearsal or a gig, I've got a bunch of work ahead of me getting the files onto the computer, editing the recordings down to individual tracks, turning them into MP3s and/or burning CDs to share with the other band members.


Joe's Blues Blog said...

I picked up an H2 a couple of months ago. It's been very handy and well worth the dough I spent on it.

Alan Oehler said...

Hi, Joe! Yeah, you had it with you on Tuesday last week at the Mojo, right?

I learned something about my recorder on Sunday at Stan's superjam: it's easy to accidentally set it to record off the external mics instead of the built-in mics. My recordings cams out as a completely horizontal waveform of minus infinity dB in amplitude... doh!